When my father passed away a few years ago, my Mother gave me his watches. He'd worked in construction his entire life and rarely wore a watch as it posed a potential hazard should it get caught on some machinery and he didn’t have much of a need for a watch for any formal occasions, so what watches he did have were mostly practical and chosen purely for function. However, amongst his watches I discovered a beautiful vintage Felca, a Swiss company that later became Titoni, a watch that I had never seen him wear. It had a metal strap from another watch that didn't do the face justice, but the mechanism was self-winding and kept excellent time. I decided to change the strap to something more Dandy inspired, reinventing an old piece into something new.
A chap named Brian at the watch repair shop I went to offered up a very helpful suggestion; when choosing a strap for a watch, look for color cues on the face. He said that often there is something on the face that gives a hint as to what a complimentary strap color could be. In this case, if you look very closely at the ends of the hands you'll see a touch of yellowish orange, prompting me to choose the leather strap that I now wear. It could easily be the faceplate itself, the numbers or any other accent. Spurred by this small success, I've had fun changing the straps on most of my watch faces, creating what feels like all new watches for a price significantly cheaper than a new or newly purchased vintage one altogether. Here are some more examples of other changes I’ve made:
A square Armani watch I bought when I moved to Canada from the UK that had a brown leather strap, and while I loved it, it felt too small to be a man’s watch. Switching the strap to a military style green canvas completely changed the look of the watch and after 6 years of never wearing it, I now wear it more than once per week.
A gold colored Brook’s Brothers watch that has multiple strap options for fun and easily changeable preppy options.
For a long time, this vintage Bulova had a brown leather strap with orange stitching, which gave it a casual look that I loved, but adding the strap left over from the Armani watch made it feel more elegant, and it soon started to get a lot more wear.
I was in Ottawa this weekend and met a chap named Francesco Corsaro, who had a beautiful vintage Lucerna with an updated modern strap.
If you’ve inherited a watch but it doesn’t quite match your style or you are looking for a change for one you already own, investigate strap options to reinvigorate your timepiece. Have you successfully reinvented any of your watches? Post a link to your photo in the comments.
Will Eagle is a British Dandy residing in Toronto and his dream watch would be a vintage Longines. You can follow him on Twitter @willeagle.